“I told my agent to just take a peek,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s time. There’s a possibility that we’re not going to have a season. We’ve got to see what’s out there, what the possibilities are. I want to play competitive basketball this year. I’ve missed a year of basketball in my life before. I’m not trying to miss another. I don’t have too many years of basketball left.”
“We’re just discussing it,” Goodwin said. “We’re in discussions and it’s definitely a consideration, but we’re not in the final stages.”
No one want to see some mass exodus of NBA stars at such a crucial time in these labor talks, and despite all of the legal proceedings going on around the country on behalf of both sides, we very much consider this an ongoing situation.
But we agree with most optimistic fringe in the belief that there is more than enough time on the calendar to turn this thing around and salvage some sort of an abbreviated season.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In the days since the first two weeks of the NBA regular season ended, there has been no mincing of words from either side.
We are in a red alert situation. The 2011-12 NBA season is on the line every second of every minute of every single day as this lockout continues. NBA commissioner David Stern said as much in various interviews Thursday, making clear that something has to be done sooner (next week Tuesday at the earliest) rather than later …
No Deal Tuesday, No Games Through Christmas?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Setting another arbitrary deadline for more lost games, NBA commissioner David Stern said that without an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by Tuesday, he fears there will be no games on Christmas Day.
“It’s time to make the deal,” Stern said, speaking deliberately and threateningly Wednesday in an interview on New York’s WFAN radio. ”If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut — this is not in my official capacity of canceling games — but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.”
Tuesday is the day the league and players’ association will meet with federal mediator George Cohen in an attempt to resolve their differences before more games are canceled.
“Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal,” Stern said.
Stern confirmed that negotiating committees for the league and National Basketball Players Association will meet separately with Cohen on Monday and then will convene for a bargaining session under Cohen’s supervision Tuesday. Why the deadline? Stern’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in New York Wednesday and Thursday — first for the planning committee to present its revenue sharing plan and then for a full board meeting.
Asked when more games could be imperiled after he canceled the first two weeks on Monday, Stern said, “I don’t have a date here sitting at my desk. But if we don’t have a deal by the time the owners are in, then what’s the purpose of us sitting around staring at each other on the same issues?”
Hunter: “It’s not an issue of time. It’s an issue of will. If you are in a room and you want to make a deal and there are three major issues that are holding you up, if you can come to a compromise on those three areas than you have a makings of a deal. It’s not a nature of time. We can go in and do a deal if they want to go in and do a deal. We can do a deal in an hour, two hours if we can agree to the major terms. And after that you got to work on everything else. Everything else will fall in place.”
Q: What has been the most frustrating part of negotiations?
Hunter: “I don’t think [the owners] are negotiating in good faith. That’s what’s frustrating. David Stern told me three years ago – and I keep reiterating that because people keep pulling up their cup on it – that they were going to lock out [the players] in order to get what it was they wanted. And what he’s done is done that. [Stern] said he was going to lock out [the players] and his owners were prepared to lock out to get what they wanted. It’s driven pretty much by the small-market teams. They actually want revenue sharing in the big markets, but the big markets have said, ‘OK we’ll give revenue conditioned upon you getting the deal in place that we think has to be there because we don’t want to go into our pockets as much as we may have to. We think you should get it off the backs of the players.’ So that’s what he’s done. He’s stated an extreme position from the get go and he’s negotiated that way. So here we are.
“We’ve been negotiating for almost three years, and here we are at the 12th hour when all of the sudden they make a slight move. But then on top of that, they then decide that they want a hard cap. So then when you get close to the economics of the number, then they get close to the system. And they know that the system is very important. If we give on the economics, we are not going to give on the system. And so all of the sudden you reach a possible agreement on the economics and now the system becomes a problem. So it’s like a moving target. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because the whole intent and purpose and whole strategy has been to break the resolve of the players.
We can dispense with all of the pleasantries now and get down to brass tacks. Forget about when the season starts. Most fans are wondering this morning if there will be a season. The unthinkable a few weeks ago has become our new reality …
Something To Salvage?
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999.
Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.
On and on it will go, with both sides looking back to the salvation of the ’99 lockout. That resolution a dozen years ago may have influenced these extended talks that failed Monday night in New York. As much anxiety as both sides were feeling to reach an agreement this week, they weren’t experiencing the ultimate pressure that will be felt later this winter when the entire season is at risk. “The problem,” said a former league official who was involved in the negotiations that shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games, “is that people tend to look at early January as the drop-dead date.”
He was worrying that the absolute final offer from either side may not emerge for another 12 weeks. Not until the final days of this calendar year will the owners fully understand the consequences of losing a full season during a recession, while more than 400 players find themselves confronted with the likelihood of a full year without an NBA paycheck.
In many ways these entire negotiations have gone according to form. It is not the formula anyone would have desired, but it has been entirely predictable. The owners lock out the players July 1, with little negotiating done for most of July and August, followed by sudden urgency to make a deal that can save the full season.
Lost Games Part Of The Plan?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the sidewalk out on 63rd Street, sirens wailing and knucklehead cameramen jostling for position and cursing each other, here was Billy Hunter living in his own movie. Regular-season games lost on his watch, and on David Stern‘s, just as they’d discussed two years ago.
“It goes back to a comment that David said to me several years ago, when he said this is what my owners have to have,” Hunter said Monday night, after the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA regular season were canceled. “And I said, ‘Well, the only way you’re going to get that is, you prepare to lock us out for a year or two.’ And he’s indicated to me that they’re willing to do it. So my belief and contention is that everything that he’s done has demonstrated that he’s following that script.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Perhaps “no comment,” officially, is the best thing anyone could say at this late stage of the NBA lockout.
After more than five hours of closed-door negotiations in New York Sunday night, the two sides agreed to stay quiet about what was said and resume negotiations Monday at 2 p.m. ET.
“We don’t have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters after emerging from the meeting, which was scrapped as of late Friday night only to be revived over the weekend.
The continuation of talk is better than the alternative. Stern issued a Monday deadline for a new labor agreement to be reached before the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled. Union executive director Billy Hunter was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this morning for a previously scheduled regional meeting with players, but will instead be back in the meeting room alongside union president Derek Fisher and the rest of their negotiating team.
“We’re not necessarily any closer than we were [going into] tonight,” Fisher told reporters when he hit the New York sidewalk shortly before midnight.
Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio and Glen Taylor of Minnesota, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with Hunter, Fisher and union vice president Mo Evans. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner were also present.
Getting all of them in a room together just two days after both sides agreed that they would not meet without the precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split of BRI was a victory in itself. The introduction of the 50-50 split is what shut down talks Tuesday, when the players rejected the notion outright. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix the subject was not discussed at all during Sunday’s session, which focused solely on … .
We won’t find out exactly where things stand until someone speaks about it in-depth, and preferably on the record. (Both sides agreed not to do so, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.) But the clock continues to tick on Stern’s deadline.
The key negotiators from each side: NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver for the owners, with union president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter representing the players, along with San Antonio owner Peter Holt, head of the league’s labor relations committee and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who is chairman of the NBA Board of Governors. Attorneys for both sides are also reportedly in attendance, per Berger.
Berger also reported via Twitter that players union vice president Mo Evans is in the meeting room as well. The negotiating session began roughly three hours ago, according to reports, with no timetable set for how long it might last.
Perhaps the most significant nugget unearthed tonight is that the reported precondition that the players had to agree to a 50-50 split of BRI in order for the meeting to take place was (obviously) dropped before the sides entered the room.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.
No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.
It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.
We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.
But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …
Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.
• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.
• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.
• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.
• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.
• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Depending on what you choose to believe, we’re either days away from the beginning of a resolution to the NBA’s labor mess … or on the verge of an even bigger chasm between the owners and players.
No one seems to know for sure, but everyone seems to have a theory (or two or three) about how this weekend’s meetings (things begin Friday in New York) will play out.
In order for an on-time start to the regular season, the sides have to come together as soon as possible. So there is a very obvious reason for all of the extra emphasis on the coming talks (as expressed by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA President Derek Fisher):
Players Prepared To Sit?
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: Unless major concessions are made by the owners by then, the sources said players are prepared to show a united front and express their willingness to sit out the entire season — if not more. There is a growing sentiment that missing the start of the regular season could mean missing the entire season, one that was recently reflected in the comments of agent David Falk. There has even been renewed talk of players starting a league of their own, which may or may not be realistic but is certainly indicative of their level of frustration and the types of strategies being considered.
There were hints of this we-determine-our-own-destiny approach in the latest letter from NBPA president Derek Fisher to the league’s players, which was first obtained by ESPN.com.
“We are a group of some of the most talented, savvy businessmen and business owners in the world,” Fisher wrote. “We have built our own brands, launched our own and other people’s companies, helped our communities. I keep that in the forefront of my mind each time we go into a negotiating session.
“If a Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Russell Simmons were in this, there is no way they would take a deal that is unfair. Not when we are the talent, the most coveted asset, the most valuable resource that drives this business. Keep that in your mind as we walk down this road shoulder to shoulder.”
And the talent is far from happy.
According to sources who have been briefed on the talks in New York this week, the discussion over basketball-related income and how it is divvied up is the most maddening for the NBPA. While the owners have shown a willingness to give between 46 percent and 48 percent to the players (depending on other components of the deal that are in play), it is believed that the players — who received 57 percent in the previous deal — won’t accept anything less than 53 percent (again, depending on other aspect of the potential agreement). With the league’s revenues totaling about $4 billion last season, each percentage point represents approximately $40 million.
Season Hangs In Balance
Marc Stein of ESPN.com: When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.
Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.
Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.
It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.
At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.
That’s the hard truth, the hard road to labor peace. Stern’s job is convincing the owners to pull off the press, take the 30-point victory and leave the floor with some grace and dignity.
This has been rigged for years and months and weeks, and here’s how a deal happens this weekend: In the carnage of a devastating collective bargaining loss for the union with billions of dollars redirected into owners’ pockets, Stern has to give Hunter something to take back to the players, so that the union’s bloodied, bruised and beaten executive director can still raise his arms and declare that, yes, we won.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve known all along that some sort of compromise was the only way to solve the NBA’s labor issue in time for the regular season to begin on time.
But all we’ve heard for weeks is that the sides were so far apart that an on-time start was little more than a pipe dream. Well, dream on folks. If the rumblings from Tuesday’s meetings in New York have any table scrap of truth to them, significant progress could be on the horizon.
We’ll temper our optimism with the full knowledge that nearly every sign of progress throughout this saga has been followed up with an equally devastating setback of some sort. But as the clock continues to tick away on the season, the fact that both sides have something to talk about is good enough for us … (especially with talks scheduled to resume today):
Sources: Owners Ease Up On Hard Cap Demand
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Owners have indicated a willingness to drop their insistence on a hard team salary cap in exchange for adjustments to the luxury tax system and key spending exceptions, two people with knowledge of the negotiations told CBSSports.com Tuesday night.
The offer by league negotiators came Tuesday in a brief, two-hour bargaining session that set the stage for what one source described as “an important day” on Wednesday.
“It’s put up or shut up time,” said the person, who is connected to the talks but spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The flexibility in the owners’ longstanding insistence on a hard team-by-team cap, first reported by Yahoo Sports, comes with significant strings attached. Among the many concepts league negotiators proposed Tuesday were a more punitive luxury tax and adjustments to two key spending exceptions that teams had under previous agreements: the Larry Bird exception and the mid-level exception. Both would have been eliminated under the owners’ original proposal from two years ago, with many of those dramatic systemic changes living on in subsequent proposals until Tuesday.
There is a feeling among two people who have been briefed on the talks that the owners will come forward Wednesday with an enhanced version of the concepts proposed Tuesday. According to the sources, among the additions could be a proposed 50-50 revenue split, which to this point the league has not reached in terms of the players’ average share over the life of a new CBA in its previous proposals.
As for the system changes the owners proposed Tuesday in exchange for relaxing their stance on the hard team salary cap, one of the people briefed on the talks said union officials regarded them as “alarming.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Good luck trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.
One minute all seems lost, with voices from both sides (players and owners) dispensing ominous soundbites about their fear that any sort of peaceful accord is anywhere in sight. And then the next, we hear that progress, however slight, is being made and that perhaps there is a chance that common ground is in the distance.
Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.
“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”
According to one of the people familiar with the bargaining, here is some of what transpired Thursday: After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. Unsurprisingly, the number was lower than what the players had last proposed, though multiple people involved in the talks refused to specify by how much.
The owners’ proposed BRI split was made without specific system details tied to it, and the number itself was “unacceptable” to the union leadership, one of the sources said. Thus, the faces of both sides emerged from the Manhattan hotel after five hours of bargaining and delivered the same vague non-answers with strikingly similar flatlined demeanors and monotone voices.
“I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. “And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”
Before departing Argentina, where he helped Brazil qualify for next summer’s Olympic tournament, center Tiago Splitter told the Express-News he would sign on with Flamengo, a Brazilian club where former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa currently plays, if training camps were postponed or canceled.
“I do not want to be waiting for something to happen,” Splitter said. “I want to be playing, so if our (Spurs) camp will not start on time then I think I will sign with Flamengo.
“Of course, I will make sure I will be able to join the Spurs when the lockout ends, but I want to be playing and working on my game.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.
From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.
The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.
NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.
You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.
Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …
The Union’s Next Test … Decertification
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?
“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.
“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.
“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”
Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.
There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.